We lived at the top of a small hill in our second house, the first house I can remember without benefit of photographs. Our drive was concrete—perfect for hopscotch and biking and jumping rope—and sloped down over a ditch that occasionally filled with rainwater and snowmelt. A galvanized steel pipe ran beneath the drive and drained into that ditch. And when it wasn’t too wet, that pipe was the perfect place to hide treasures. My sisters and I could lie on our sides and stretch an arm about a foot in and our treasures—generally the few Matchbox cars we owned—would be safe. Eventually we moved, leaving behind forgotten treasures. I’ve often wondered what I would find there, were I to go back.
Growing up, I remember a bank that belonged to my mother. It was an iron treasure chest—brown—with an image of a pirate on one side and a skull and cross bones on the other and a slot in the lid for coins. The chest was hinged and I loved to fold back the curved lid to run my fingers through the pennies contained within, pretending that it was real treasure; real gold.
My mother’s button box was also full of interesting treasures—long wooden buttons; metal buttons; buttons that resembled diamonds and pearls that we would hold up to our ears and the backs of our fingers. There were buttons still on their cards; buttons cut from coats; plain buttons that were to be covered in fabric. My sisters and I played for hours with these buttons: sorting by size and by color and stringing them on long lengths of yarn to make clunky necklaces.
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The cicadas showed up this week. Starting at about the middle of the day, I hear them calling from high up in the trees; a rattling; a drumming that starts quietly but crescendos until the sound is nearly deafening. Here and there, I’ll notice an empty shell, clinging to a fencepost or a tree, perfect, except for the gash along the back. And, occasionally, I’ll find a cicada, long and green as a spring blade of grass; silver and white underneath with translucent wings veined in black; weightless wings of lead and glass.
After dinner tonight, my husband and I went walking. The sun was setting. The clouds were rimmed in black. A woman walked briskly by, vigorously pumping her arms in the air. We walked over a stream and past a pond and along a small stretch of woods before reaching the train tracks where we turned around and headed in the other direction. The cicadas called. A bird sang. A jet streaked across the sky. A sudden wind blew in from the north.
Pine trees along the path wept resin where they’d been trimmed; perfect drops suspended from the branches. Sitting on the curb, a restaurant chef ate his dinner and stared off into space. A woman pulled out of an office complex and asked for directions. Across the street, two women wearing yellow construction vests walked. But tonight, I missed the man riding his beat up bicycle; a stranger who is always free with a smile and a wave no matter how many times we pass him in a night.
The sun disappeared. The clouds were tinged with pink. To the left, a nearly-full moon rose above the clouds. A group of geese tried to cross the road but were turned back by an impatient driver who barely swerved and didn’t bother to slow.
We turned into our development and followed a woman and her daughter—home from college for the summer—as they walked their Bichon Frise. Outside V and Squints and a neighbor girl were shooting baskets. The bats came out and the crickets started to sing and darkness fell, a velvet curtain that came down slowly and softly so that we barely noticed it until it completely covered the sky. And we headed inside to watch a movie.
The best treasures in life are simple. A game of Scrabble with the kids, my taped college dictionary at the table. Midsummer cicadas and bats and crickets. Magic chests full of pennies and old tins of buttons.
I treasure pink skies and full moons and cold fronts chasing away the heat. I treasure smiles from a stranger and falling asleep with the windows open. I treasure listening to the sounds of the wind in the trees. And I treasure the memory of three little girls sitting at the edge of the driveway, soberly storing things of importance in a damp drainage pipe of galvanized steel.
Labels: Community, Culture, Growing up, Nature, Ohio, Treasures, Walk